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Where in Town: Jack Rose Dining Saloon, 2007 18th St. NW
Price: $20/16.9 oz.
I usually only browse vintage beer lists to gawk at the prices and speculate what some of my own cellared bottles might be worth (not that I’d sell any of them). But recently at Jack Rose, a beer piqued my interest enough to fork over the extra cash: a year-old smoked imperial stout from … Iceland. It was the exact reaction beer director Nahem Simon intended when he picked up the unique treat that shows how widespread craft brewing has become. Ölvisholt Brugghús, one of just six breweries on the Nordic isle, is on the isolated site of a centuries-old dairy and sheep farm. The active volcano Hekla, visible in the distance, is featured on the beer’s label. (For those planning a virtual drive-by via Google Street View, note the staff waving and holding a crude cardboard sign with the brewery’s name.)
Lava turned out to be absolutely delicious. The jet-black stout is brewed with seven grains, including wheat and barley house-smoked with birch wood. It is sugary throughout, balanced by robust but not overpowering roast and smoke flavors. Think of a cup of bittersweet hot chocolate topped with a toasted marshmallow. Barely detectable notes of plum and licorice are followed by scalded milk (the good kind) and more roast in the finish. Perhaps the best part of the brew is its silkiness, which along with a year of aging helps hide Lava’s high alcohol content—a hardy 9.4 percent. I recommend enjoying this complex, rare find on a cold night on Jack Rose’s heated terrace with something tasty from the wood-fired grill.
Photo by Tammy Tuck